Kendrick, Aybar having down years on offense

Kendrick, Aybar having down years on offense

Kendrick, Aybar having down years on offense
ANAHEIM -- In the beginning of the season, shortstop Erick Aybar and second baseman Howie Kendrick were supposed to be batting first and second in the Angels' lineup, respectively.

Just a few months later, the duo occupies the lower half of the lineup, with Kendrick usually slotted in the sixth spot and Aybar batting mostly seventh or eighth.

The drop in the order has correlated with a drop in production from the previous year, as well.

On June 4 of last season, the day he returned from the disabled list after straining his right hamstring, Kendrick had a .317 average and a .385 on-base percentage, with 41 strikeouts and 16 walks.

After signing a four-year, $33.5 million contract extension with the Angels in January, Kendrick is hitting just .258 on the season entering Sunday, and is 21st among second baseman in on-base percentage at .287. His nine walks put him at 26th at second base, and his 43 strikeouts are the seventh most at the position.

"That's baseball, man," Kendrick said of his 2012 stats. "If you watch the game and you know the game, you know not every year's going to be the same. You're going to have times where your average is going to be down, and you're going to have times where it's really high. It's just balancing."

Though Kendrick says his plan at the plate is to be aggressive, Angels hitting coach Jim Eppard said he's trying to get Kendrick to be a bit more patient and not swing at as many pitches out of the zone.

Kendrick has been prone to the strikeout throughout his career -- he had a career-high 119 strikeouts in 140 games last season -- but those numbers can drop with better pitch recognition, Eppard said.

"As we do with everybody, we're trying to hit strikes," Eppard said. "And the better job we do at hitting strikes and taking balls, the better we're going to do."

For Aybar, who signed a four-year, $35 million extension in April, his numbers aren't what they were at the same point last year, either.

He had a .305 average and .345 on-base percentage on June 4 of last year, but this season he holds a .221 average (23rd in the league among shortstops) and a .254 on-base percentage (23rd in the league at the position).

Eppard said there were parts of this season where Aybar was feeling a little off at the plate. He wasn't comfortable, and it was hurting his rhythm. But losing a rhythm and finding it again is just a part of the game, Eppard said.

And hitters are always working on trying to find that right feel.

"You hit the ball. You can't really predict what happens," Kendrick said. "I just keep playing. We've still got like 100 games. That's a lot of baseball to play. You just try to put together good at-bats and play the game hard and try to win."